California Keyboards Music Center

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Ed Tomlinson

Ed Tomlinson

Profile appeared in our 32-1 Issue – April 2015

Don and Beverly Wade made a big decision in 1976. The local couple jumped into business in a big way when they opened a store dedicated to the sale of pianos and organs, as well as a music lesson center.

At the time, the company, known today as California Keyboards Music Center, was small but efficient. The Wades’ store was also the first store to be an official Yamaha dealer in the Kern County area. They were always looking for ways to set the business apart from other stores in town and, to this day, that attitude holds true.

Since that day over 38 years ago, the philosophy has never changed—offer customers from Kern County, southern California, and beyond, the best selection in musical instruments.

Originally located in East Bakersfield, the store moved to Ming Avenue for a brief period before setting up shop on Oak Street. The moves were necessary to accommodate the growth of not only the business, but also the growing community’s desire for pianos.

Don & Beverly Wade, founders

Don & Beverly Wade, founders

Over the years, California Keyboards has added a variety of products and services in order to better serve the musicians in our fair city. It’s not just pianos and keyboards that the store carries; everything one needs to learn and play an instrument is available, including reeds, strings for all stringed instruments, mouthpieces, music stands, instrument cases and bags, cleaning and maintenance supplies, metronomes and tuners—just to name a few.

Fittingly, California Keyboards also carries an extensive line of sheet music. Because the knowledgable staff can also tune and restore most instruments, it’s easy to see how it has become the largest ‘full-service’ music store in town.

Some of that has to do with Ed Tomlinson’s vision for growing the company. Tomlinson bought California Keyboards in 2000 and, early on, had the help of his grandparents, Carlene and Ronald. Tomlinson is a master piano restoration expert (he’s currently restoring an 1877 Steinway semi-concert grand with original ivory and rosewood finish).

Tomlinson says he cannot take all the credit for the success. He has assembled the best staff and is proud to have a fantastic team working for him. The entire staff works to bring music to Kern County by keeping California Keyboards involved in numerous local organizations. The business has donated the use of pianos for the Bakersfield Symphony community concerts, the Bakersfield Jazz Festival, The Masterworks Chorale, and they’ve even hosted booths at local marching band and drumline competitions for free band instrument repairs during competition. And because music appreciation starts young, there is also a full-time staff member who ensures local schools have the musical supplies they need.

It’s so important to Tomlinson and California Keyboards that children have access to education that the business was adamant about forming a music school. It started with 45 students in 2000 and today boasts nearly 500 students weekly, learning piano, guitar, brass, strings, and voice.
Thanks to values like these, it’s easy to see that California Keyboards will be bringing music to our community for many years to come.

Though it’s been over 38 years since California Keyboards opened its doors, the store continues to bring music and education to the Kern County community.


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